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Treat 999 call handlers with respect

Posted: Friday 26th April 2019
Blog: April

I’m under no illusion how difficult policing is and the challenging circumstances our police officers and emergency services face on a daily basis to keep us and our communities safe. However, it’s not just our colleagues on the frontline who face abuse; abusive calls to 999 and 101 call handlers are on the rise.

Unfortunately, our call handlers are often subjected to swearing and name-calling but in more serious cases some of our call handlers have received death threats and threats of rape. One individual even threatened to burn down a call handler’s house with her children inside. The reality that our call handlers face is unacceptable. Our call handlers, who go above and beyond to protect us from harm, deserve to come to work without being worried about potential abuse they might face during their shift. They deserve to be treated with respect and we all need to show support to these individuals who work so hard to keep our communities safe.

Nationally, there has been an increase in 999 calls and within Avon and Somerset we have seen an 8% year on year increase. This 8% equates to approximately an extra 48 999 calls every day or an additional five hours of call handling per day. Disappointingly, some 999 calls are not emergencies and some are even hoaxes. We need to remember that non-emergency calls to 999 could be blocking a real emergency and this is deadly serious.

Earlier this week, we supported the first national Stephen Lawrence Day. Most people are familiar with Stephen’s story, the young man who aspired to become an architect whose life was cut cruelly short at 18 years old when he was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack. Stephen’s story is both challenging and inspirational, and his short life has had a profound impact on society, including changes to UK law.

We want our children and young people to feel inspired because of Stephen. Every young person has the right to discover what they are capable of, to be confident and to have hope in their own future. I know there are many injustices in our society and many of those inequalities are still within our criminal justice system; we need to support young people to drive social change and create an inclusive society that treats everyone with fairness and respect. We need to celebrate the life and legacy of Stephen and inspire each other to build a stronger community in which everyone can flourish.

This week, the charity Unseen UK released its annual report focusing on the UK-wide Modern Slavery Helpline. A single point of contact for all issues related to modern slavery in the UK, the Helpline is now seen as a trusted and valued partner in the fight against this terrible crime. In the last year, Unseen have reported 7,121 potential victims of modern slavery and a 62% increase in calls. It is clear from these statistics that modern slavery is happening right now; it often occurs in plain sight and in everyday situations. We need to do more to help those facing exploitation and use their voice to speak up for those who can’t. Be vigilant, know how to spot the signs and, most importantly, report your suspicion if you believe someone is at risk.

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